Anselm of Canterbury
|St. Anselm of Canterbury|
|Archbishop of Canterbury|
Anselm depicted in his personal seal
|Diocese||Diocese of Canterbury|
|See||Archbishop of Canterbury|
|Term ended||21 April 1109|
|Other posts||Abbot of Bec|
|Consecration||4 December 1093|
|Birth name||Anselmo d'Aosta|
Aosta, Kingdom of Burgundy
21 April 1109
Canterbury, Kent, England
|Feast day||21 April|
|Attributes||Portrayed with a ship, representing the spiritual independence of the Church.|
Saint Anselm of Canterbury (; c. 1033 – 21 April 1109), also called Anselm of Aosta after his birthplace and Anselm of |Bec after his monastery, was a Benedictine monk, philosopher, and prelate of the Church, who held the office of Archbishop of Canterbury from 1093 to 1109. Called the founder of scholasticism, he has been a major influence in Western theology and is famous as the originator of the ontological argument for the existence of God and the satisfaction theory of atonement.
He entered the Benedictine order at the Abbey of Bec at the age of 27, where he became abbot in 1079. He became Archbishop of Canterbury under William II of England. He was exiled from England from 1097 to 1100, and again from 1105 to 1107 (under Henry I of England), as a result of the investiture controversy, the most significant conflict between Church and state in Medieval Europe. Anselm was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1720 by a Papal Bull of Pope Clement XI. His feast day is April 21.
- Early life 1.1
- Abbot of Bec 1.2
Archbishop of Canterbury 1.3
- First exile 1.3.1
Conflicts with King Henry I 1.4
- Second exile 1.4.1
- Motivation 1.4.2
- Theistic proofs 2.1
Further works 2.2
- Cur Deus Homo and Satisfaction Atonement 2.2.1
- "Dilecto dilectori" 2.3.1
- Recognition 3
- References 4
- Editions and translations 5
- Further reading 6
- External links 7
Anselm was born in Aosta in the Kingdom of Arles around 1033. His family was related by blood to the ascendant House of Savoy and owned considerable property. His parents were from a noble lineage. His father Gundulf was by birth a Lombard. His mother Ermenberga was related to Otto, Count of Savoy.
At the age of fifteen, Anselm desired to enter a monastery but could not obtain his father's consent, and so the abbot refused him. Disappointment brought on apparent psychosomatic illness. After recovery, he gave up his studies and lived a carefree life. During this period, his mother died. When he was twenty-three, Anselm left home, crossed the Alps and wandered through Burgundy and France. Attracted by the fame of his countryman Lanfranc (then prior of the Benedictine Abbey of Bec), Anselm arrived in Normandy in 1059. The following year, after some time at Avranches, he entered the abbey as a novice at the age of twenty-seven; submitting himself to the Rule of Saint Benedict, which reshaped his thought over the next decade.
Abbot of Bec
In 1063, Lanfranc was made abbot of Caen and Anselm was elected prior of the abbey of Bec, an office he held for fifteen years before he became abbot at the death of Herluin, the abbey's founder, in 1078. He was consecrated abbot 22 February 1079 by the bishop of Évreux. This consecration was rushed, because at the time the archdiocese of Rouen (wherein Bec lay) was sede vacante (vacant). Had Anselm been consecrated by the archbishop of Rouen, he would have been under pressure to profess obedience to him, which would compromise Bec's independence.
Under Anselm's jurisdiction, Bec became the foremost seat of learning in Europe, attracting students from France, Italy and elsewhere. It was during his time at Bec that he wrote his first works of philosophy, the Monologion (1076) and the Proslogion (1077–8). These were followed by The Dialogues on Truth, Free Will and Fall of the Devil. During his time at Bec, Anselm worked to maintain its freedom from lay and archiepiscopal control. Later in his abbacy Anselm worked to ensure Bec's independence from Robert de Beaumont, 1st Earl of Leicester and from the archbishop of Rouen.
Anselm occasionally visited England to see the abbey's property there, as well as to visit Lanfranc, who, in 1070, had been installed as Archbishop of Canterbury. He made a good impression while there, and was the natural successor to Lanfranc as Archbishop.
Upon Lanfranc's death in 1089, however, William II of England seized the possessions and revenues of the see, and made no new appointment. In 1092, at the invitation of Hugh d'Avranches, 1st Earl of Chester, Anselm crossed to England. He was detained there by business for nearly four months and then refused permission to return to Bec by the king. The latter suddenly fell seriously ill at Alveston the following year, and spurred on by his wish to make amends for his sinful behaviour which he believed had caused his illness, he allowed the nomination of Anselm to the vacant see, on 6 March 1093. Over the course of the following months, Anselm tried to refuse, on the grounds of age and ill-health, On 24 August, Anselm gave William the conditions under which he would accept the see, which amounted to an agenda of the Gregorian Reform: that William return the see's land which he had seized; that William accept the pre-eminence of Anselm's spiritual counsel; and that William acknowledge Pope Urban II as pope (in opposition to Antipope Clement III). Anselm's professions of refusal aided his bargaining position as he discussed terms with William. William was exceedingly reluctant to accept these conditions; he would only grant the first. A few days after this, William tried to rescind even this; he suspended the preparations for Anselm's investiture. Under public pressure William was forced to carry out the appointment. In the end Anselm and William settled on the return of Canterbury's lands as the only concession from William. Finally, the English bishops thrust the crosier into his hands and took him to the church to be inducted. He did homage to William, and on 25 September 1093 he received the lands of the see, and was enthroned, after obtaining dispensation from his duties in Normandy. He was consecrated archbishop of Canterbury on 4 December.
It has been argued whether or not Anselm's reluctance to take the see was sincere. Scholars such as Southern maintain that his preference would have been to stay at Bec. However, reluctance to accept important ecclesiastical positions was a Medieval trope. Vaughn states that Anselm could not have expressed a desire for the position, because he would be regarded as an ambitious careerist. She further states that Anselm recognised William's political situation and goals, and acted at the moment that would gain him the most leverage in the interests of his expected see, and of the reform movement.
On the other hand, the life of a hermit was one of the options Anselm considered before taking the advice of the Archbishop of Rouen, and entering the monastery. William Kent believed that there is no reason to suspect the sincerity of his resistance. Naturally drawn to contemplation, Anselm would have had little liking for such an office even in a period of peace; much less could he desire it in those stormy days. Anselm knew full well what awaited him. However, the positions may not be mutually exclusive.
Archbishop of Canterbury
One of Anselm's first conflicts with William came the very month he was consecrated. William was preparing to fight his elder brother, Robert II, Duke of Normandy, and needed funds for doing so. Anselm was among those expected to pay him, and he offered £500. William refused the offer, insisting on a greater sum. Later, a group of bishops suggested that William might now settle for the original sum, but Anselm told them he had already given the money to the poor. In this episode Anselm was careful, and managed to both avoid charges of simony, and be generous.
Anselm continued to agitate for reform and the interests of Canterbury. His vision of the Church was one of a universal Church with its own internal authority, which countered with William's vision of royal control over both Church and state. Consequently, he has been viewed alternatively as a contemplative monastic or as a man politically engaged, committed to maintaining the privileges of the episcopal see of Canterbury.
The Church's rule stated that metropolitans could not be consecrated without receiving the pallium from the hands of the pope. Anselm, accordingly, insisted that he must proceed to Rome to receive the pallium, but William would not permit it. The Antipope Clement was disputing the authority of Urban II, who had been recognised by France and Normandy. It does not appear that the English King was a partisan of the Antipope, but he wished to strengthen his own position by asserting his right to decide between the rival claimants. Hence, when Anselm asked leave to go to the Pope, the King said that no one in England should acknowledge either Pope till he, the King, had decided the matter. On 25 February 1095, the bishops and nobles of England held a council at Rockingham to discuss the issue. The bishops sided with the king, with William de St-Calais, the bishop of Durham, even advising William to depose Anselm. The nobles chose Anselm's position, and the conference ended in deadlock.
Immediately following this William sent secret messengers to Rome. They prevailed on Urban to send a legate (Walter of Albano) to the king bearing the archiepiscopal pallium. Walter and William then negotiated in secret. William agreed to acknowledge Urban as pope, and secured the right to give permission before clerics could receive and obey papal letters; Walter, negotiating for Urban, conceded that Urban would send no legates without William's invitation. William's greatest desire was that Anselm be deposed and another given the pallium. Walter said that "there was good reason to expect a successful issue in accordance with the king's wishes". William then openly acknowledged Urban as pope, but Walter refused to depose Anselm. William then tried to extract money from Anselm for the pallium, and was refused. William also tried to personally hand over the pallium to Anselm, and was refused again. He compromised, and Anselm took the pallium from the altar at Canterbury on 10 June 1095.
Over nearly the next two years, no overt dispute between Anselm and William is known. However, William blocked Anselm's efforts at church reform. The issues came to a head in 1097, after William put down a Welsh rebellion. He charged Anselm with having given him insufficient knights for the campaign and tried to fine him. Anselm resolved to proceed to Rome and seek the counsel of the pope because William had refused to fulfill his promise of Church reform, but William denied him permission. The negotiations ended with William declaring that if Anselm left, he would take back the see, and never again receive Anselm as archbishop. If Anselm were to stay, William would fine him and force him to swear never again to appeal to Rome: "Anselm was given the choice of exile or total submission."
As an exile, in October 1097 Anselm set out for Rome. William immediately seized the revenues of the see and retained them until his death, though Anselm retained the archbishopric. Anselm went into exile to defend his vision of the universal Church, displaying William's sins against that vision. Though he had done homage to William, Anselm qualified that homage by his higher duty towards God and the papacy. Anselm was received with high honour by Urban at the Siege of Capua, where he garnered high praise from the Saracen troops of Roger I of Sicily. At a large provincial council held at Bari in 1098, which 183 bishops attended, Anselm was asked to defend, against representatives of the Greek Church, the Filioque and the practice of using unleavened bread for the Eucharist. In 1099 Urban renewed the ban on lay investiture and on clerics doing homage. That year Anselm moved to Lyon.
Conflicts with King Henry I
William was killed on 2 August 1100. His successor, Henry I of England, invited Anselm to return, writing that he committed himself to be counselled by Anselm. Henry was courting Anselm because he needed his support for the security of his claim to the throne; Anselm could have thrown his support behind Henry's elder brother instead. When Anselm returned, Henry requested that Anselm do him homage for the Canterbury estates and receive from him investiture in his office of archbishop. The papacy had recently banned clerics doing homage to laymen, as well as banning lay investiture; thus started Anselm's conflicts with Henry.
Henry refused to relinquish the privilege possessed by his predecessors, and proposed that the matter be laid before the pope. Two embassies were sent to Pope Paschal II regarding the legitimacy of Henry's investiture, but Paschal reaffirmed the papal rule on both occasions. In the meantime, Anselm did work with Henry. Henry was threatened with invasion by his brother, Robert Curthose, and Anselm publicly supported Henry, wooing the wavering barons and threatening Curthose with excommunication.
At Michaelmas of 1102, Anselm held a council in London in which he prohibited marriage and concubinage to those in holy orders (as well as condemning simony and reforming regulations on clerical dress and sobriety). He was among the first to take a public stand against the slave trade: in 1102, at a church council in St. Peter's church, Westminster, he obtained the passage of a resolution against the practice of selling men like cattle.
For his part, Henry granted Anselm authority over all the Church in England, and agreed to obey the papacy. However, because Paschal had reaffirmed the papal rules on lay investiture and homage, Henry turned once more against Anselm. In 1103, Anselm himself and an envoy from the king (William Warelwast) set out for Rome, Paschal excommunicated the bishops whom Henry had invested.
Anselm withdrew to Lyon after this ruling and awaited further action from Paschal. On 26 March 1105 Paschal excommunicated Henry's chief advisor (Robert of Meulan) for urging Henry to continue lay investiture, as well as prelates invested by Henry and other counselors, and threatened Henry with the same. In April Anselm threatened to excommunicate Henry himself, probably to force Henry's hand in their negotiations. In response Henry arranged a meeting with Anselm, and they managed a compromise at Laigle on 22 July 1105. Part of the agreement was that Robert's (and his associates') excommunication be lifted (given that they counsel the king to obey the papacy); Anselm lifted the excommunications on his own authority, an act which he later had to justify to Paschal. Other conditions of the agreement were that Henry would forsake lay investiture if Anselm obtained Paschal's permission for clerics to do homage for their nobles; that the revenues of his see be given back to Anselm; and that priests not be allowed to marry. Anselm then insisted on having the Laigle agreement sanctioned by Paschal before he would consent to return to England. By letter Anselm also asked that the pope accept his compromise on doing homage to the king, because he had secured a greater victory in Henry's forsaking lay investiture. On 23 March 1106 Paschal wrote Anselm accepting the compromise, though both saw this as a temporary compromise, and intended to later continue pushing for the Gregorian reform, including the custom of homage.
Even after this, Anselm still refused to return to England. Henry travelled to Bec and met with him on 15 August 1106. Henry made further concession, restoring to Anselm all the churches that had been seized by William; he promised that nothing more would be taken from the churches; prelates who had paid his controversial tax (which had started as a tax on married clergy) would be exempt from taxes for three years; and he promised to restore all that had been taken from Canterbury during Anselm's exile, even giving Anselm security for this promise. These compromises on Henry's part strengthened the rights of the Church against the king. Anselm returned to England following this.
By 1107, the long dispute regarding investiture was finally settled. The Concordat of London announced the compromises that Anselm and Henry had made at Bec. The final two years of Anselm's life were spent in the duties of his archbishopric. As archbishop, Anselm maintained his monastic ideals, which included stewardship, prudence, and fitting instruction to his flock, as well as prayer and contemplation. During his service as archbishop, Anselm maintained a habit of pressing on his monarchs at expedient times (when they needed his help, and when he would have public support) to advance his Church reforms.
Anselm died on Holy Wednesday, 21 April 1109 in Canterbury, Kent, England and was buried in the Canterbury Cathedral
Vaughn reads Anselm's motivation in the lay investiture conflict as advancing the interests of the see of Canterbury, rather than those of the Church at large. Other historians had seen Anselm as aligned with the papacy against the English monarchs, but Vaughn asserts that he acted on his own, as a third pole in the controversy, his aim being to promote the primacy of the archdiocese of Canterbury. His view of Canterbury's primacy is demonstrated in his charter of c. 3 September 1101, in which he called himself "Archbishop of Canterbury and primate of Great Britain and Ireland and vicar of the High Pontiff Paschal". By the end of his life he had secured the primatial status of Canterbury in relation to the papacy, and he had freed Canterbury from submission to the English king. In addition to securing the archbishop of Canterbury's role as primate of the English bishops, Anselm also initiated Canterbury's permanent control over the Welsh bishops, and gained strong authority over the Irish bishops during his lifetime.
He continued to work for the primacy of Canterbury, managing to force Paschal into sending the pallium for the archbishop of York to himself, so that the archbishop-elect would have to profess obedience to Canterbury before receiving it. From his deathbed he anathematised all who failed to recognise Canterbury's primacy over York, as Thomas II of York was doing. This anathema forced Henry to order Thomas to confess obedience to Canterbury.
Anselm engages in philosophy, employing reasoning rather than appeal to Scriptural or patristic authority to establish the doctrines of the Christian faith. Stylistically, Anselm's treatises take two basic forms, dialogues and sustained meditations. The dialogue form serves a pedagogical purpose. His great predecessor, Johannes Scotus Eriugena, was more speculative and mystical in his writings.
Anselm's motto is "faith seeking understanding" (fides quaerens intellectum), which for him means "an active love of God seeking a deeper knowledge of God." He wrote, "Neque enim quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam. Nam et hoc credo, quia, nisi credidero, non intelligam." ("Nor do I seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe that I may understand. For this, too, I believe, that, unless I first believe, I shall not understand.") This is possibly drawn from Augustine of Hippo's Ten Homilies on the First Epistle of John Tractate XXIX on John 7:14–18, §6: "Therefore do not seek to understand in order to believe, but believe that thou mayest understand." Anselm held that faith precedes reason, but that reason can expand upon faith.
The groundwork of Anselm's theory of knowledge is contained in the tract De Veritate, where he affirms the existence of an absolute truth in which all other truth participates. This absolute truth, he argues, is God, who is the ultimate ground or principle both of things and of thought. The notion of God becomes the foreground of Anselm's theory, so it is necessary first to make God clear to reason and be demonstrated to have real existence.
Anselm's world-view was broadly that of Neoplatonism, which he inherited from his primary influence, Augustine of Hippo, as well as from Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite and possibly Scotus. He also inherited a rationalist way of thinking from Aristotle and Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius.
The Monologion, written in 1077, includes an argument for God's existence, but also much more discussion of the divine attributes and economy, and some discussion of the human mind.
The Monologion begins:
If anyone does not know, either because he has not heard or because he does not believe, that there is one nature, supreme among all existing things, who alone is self-sufficient in his eternal happiness, who through his omnipotent goodness grants and brings it about that all other things exist or have any sort of well-being, and a great many other things that we must believe about God or his creation, I think he could at least convince himself of most of these things by reason alone, if he is even moderately intelligent.
In the opening chapters he sets forth the argument for goodness in all things which can only be thus through the presence of goodness 'itself.' The Monologion proof argues from the existence of many good things to a unity of goodness, a one thing through which all other things are good. He argues that "things" are called "good" in a variety of ways and degrees, which would be impossible were there not some absolute standard and some good in itself, in which all relative goods participate. The same applies to adjectives like "great" and "just", whereby things involve a certain greatness and justice. Anselm uses this thought process to state that the very existence of things is impossible without some one Being, by whom they come to exist. This absolute Being, this goodness, justice and greatness, is God. Anselm is not thoroughly satisfied with this reasoning, however, because it begins from a posteriori grounds, meaning that the reasoning is inductive.
In his Proslogion, Anselm sought to find a single argument that needed nothing but itself alone for proof, that would by itself be enough to show that God really exists; that he is the supreme good, who depends on nothing else, but on whom all things depend for their being and for their well-being. Medievals scholars called it "Anselm's" argument (ratio Anselmi). Immanuel Kant later applied the term, the "ontological argument". Anselm defined his belief in the existence of God using the phrase "that than which nothing greater can be conceived". He reasoned that, if "that than which nothing greater can be conceived" existed only in the intellect, it would not be "that than which nothing greater can be conceived", since it can be thought to exist in reality, which is greater. It follows, according to Anselm, that "that than which nothing greater can be conceived" must exist in reality. The bulk of the Proslogion is taken up with Anselm's attempt to establish the identity of "that than which nothing greater can be conceived" as God, and thus to establish that God exists in reality.
Anselm's ontological proof has been the subject of controversy since it was first published in the 1070s. It was opposed at the time by the monk Gaunilo, in his Liber pro Insipiente, on the grounds that humans cannot pass from intellect to reality. Anselm replied to the objections in his Responsio.
Gaunilo's criticism is repeated by several later philosophers, among whom are Thomas Aquinas and Kant. Anselm wrote a number of other arguments for the existence of God, based on cosmological and teleological grounds.
In Anselm's other works, he strove to state the rational grounds of the Christian doctrines of creation and the Trinity. He discussed the Trinity first by stating that human beings could not know God from Himself but only from analogy. The analogy that he used was the self-consciousness of man.
The peculiar double-nature of consciousness, memory and intelligence represent the relation of the Father to the Son. The mutual love of these two (memory and intelligence), proceeding from the relation they hold to one another, symbolises the Holy Spirit. The further theological doctrines of man, such as original sin and free will, are developed in the Monologion and other treatises.
Cur Deus Homo and Satisfaction Atonement
The Satisfaction theory of the atonement was formulated by Anselm of Canterbury in his book, Cur Deus Homo (lit. 'Why the God-Man?').
Anselm undertook to explain the rational necessity of the Christian mystery of the atonement. The argument at its core is that only a human being can make recompense for human sin against God, but this being impossible for any human being, such recompense could only be made by God. This is only possible for Jesus Christ, the Son, who is both God and man. The atonement is brought about by Christ's death, which is of infinite value. Ultimately, in Anselm's interpretation of the atonement, divine justice and divine mercy in the fullest senses are shown to be entirely compatible.
According to this view, sin incurs a debt to divine justice, a debt that must be paid somehow. Thus, no sin, according to Anselm, can be forgiven without satisfaction. However, the incurred debt is something far greater than a human being is capable of paying. All the service that a person can offer to God is already obligated on other debts to God. The only way in which the satisfaction could be made─that humans could be set free from their sin─was by the coming of a Redeemer who is both God and man. He himself would have to be sinless, thus having no debt that he owed. His death is something greater than all the sins of all humanity. His death makes a superabundant satisfaction to the Divine Justice.
Similarly, Anselm's satisfaction theory has often been used by modern theologians in their genealogical critiques of Christian theology. For example, George Foley, a professor of pastoral care, wrote in 1908 that while the 'traditional' statement of Anselm's doctrine has inspired the development of much devout and consecrated life, its power has come from the fact that it is an emotional witness to the fundamental reality of Incarnate love and sacrifice. Foley thus claims that the doctrine is not a positive theory and has brought "grievous harm" down through the centuries. Although Foley cites no clear examples of the 'grievous harm' caused by Anselm's theory, he does link it with the satisfaction theory of the Reformation. It was made the test of some Protestant forms of orthodoxy and continued to be so until near the end of the 19th century. Foley believes that "Anselm's adoption of a purely objective interpretation of Christ's work, and his assumption of and ability to penetrate into the esoteric relations of the Trinity, made him primarily responsible for the intrusive prying into Divine mysteries, and for the confident familiarity with the unrevealed portions of truth that issued in the dogmatic tyranny so conspicuous in the Protestant churches."
Further, Anselm did not provide an explanation of how sins which are humanly defined as such by church leaders, are absolute in universal terms. This would be necessary in positing a satisfaction theory where those offenses or debts, are satisfied, forgiven, or forgotten, on a universal level, not just by local church officials who determine what constitutes sin.
Anselm denied the belief which is now referred to as the Immaculate Conception, though his thinking laid the groundwork for the doctrine's development in the West. In De virginali conceptu et de peccato originali, he gave two principles which became fundamental for thinking about the Immaculate Conception. The first is that it was proper that Mary should be so pure that no purer being could be imagined, aside from God.
The second innovation in Anselm's thinking which opened the way for the Immaculate Conception was his understanding of original sin. Anselm affirmed that original sin is simply human nature without original justice, and that it is transmitted because parents cannot give original justice if they do not have it themselves; original sin is the transmission of fallen human nature. In contrast, Anselm's contemporaries held that the transmission of original sin had to do with the lustful nature of the act of sexual intercourse. Anselm was the first thinker to separate original sin from the lust of intercourse.
Anselm's works were copied and disseminated in his lifetime, and exercised an influence on later Scholastics, among them Bonaventure, Thomas Aquinas, John Duns Scotus, and William of Ockham. His treatise on the procession of the Holy Spirit has helped to guide scholastic speculations on the Trinity, his "Cur Deus Homo" throws a flood of light on the theology of the Atonement, and his work anticipates much of the later controversies on Free Will and Predestination.
It was reported that Anselm wrote many letters to monks, male relatives and others that contained passionate expressions of attachment and affection. These letters were typically addressed "dilecto dilectori", sometimes translated as "to the beloved lover." While there is wide agreement that Anselm was personally committed to the monastic ideal of celibacy, some academics, including Brian P. McGuire and John Boswell have characterised these writings as expressions of a homosexual inclination. Others, such as Glenn Olsen and Richard Southern describe them as representing a "wholly spiritual" affection, "nourished by an incorporeal ideal".
Anselm's canonisation was requested by
|Catholic Church titles|
Abbot of Bec
Guillaume de Montfort-sur-Risle
Archbishop of Canterbury
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is the ship, representing the spiritual independence of the church. hagiography, praising Anselm, his ecclesiastical career, and his writings. His symbol in "Communium Rerum" issued an encyclical Pope Pius X On 21 April 1909, 800 years after his death, .Pope Clement XI in 1720 by Doctor of the ChurchHe was proclaimed a